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Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2016: “PET” (Film Review)

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Out of all the subgenres that reside within horror, this writer certainly has a very specific admiration for the “twisted love story.” As evident in films such as THE LOVED ONES, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3, FRANKENHOOKER, and HELLRAISER, stories that take the traditional ideas of romance and pull them towards the darkest, most demented extremes are some of the most heartfelt, imaginative, and outright transgressive horror stories to be told. By tapping into emotionally familiar territory and exploiting the very concepts we keep close to heart, twisted love stories tell inherently bold stories, and if a filmmaker can find a way to make these stories as fun as they are haunting, that’s cinematic magic in motion. And, as those who caught it at last week’s Brooklyn Horror Film Fest can attest, Carles Torrens’ PET captures that magic tenfold, offering a courtship tale that is as deranged as it is delightful.

Speaking of magic, one of PET’s tricks is distracting the audience with the familiar and apparent while hiding the reality of its scenario in plain sight. Even in its premise, the concept of the film poses as something on the surface- a psychosexual kidnapping thriller where a social misfit puts his unrequited love in a cage- but slowly unveils its gleefully gruesome twists and turns, many of which are hinted at in varying degrees of subtlety. But like most good magic tricks, PET is fairly unpredictable, and the harder you try to stay ahead of the narrative, the more satisfied you’ll be when the next twist lands.

Of course, there’s so much more to PET than it’s twists and turns, and that begins with the general attitude of the film, which is, at its core, a romantic film; given, a screwed-up romance, but a romance nonetheless. Playing around a bit with the audiences’ preconception of gender roles and love stories, PET is, at times, funny, visceral, suspenseful, and even heartfelt, which helps blur the narrative line between predatory manipulation and bizarre affection. And for those who prefer their horror with a bit more blood, PET does deliver its horror with a fair amount of gruesome bits, yet rarely does it indulge in carnage for carnage sake as each vicious moment offers context and depth into the characters themselves.

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Working off of a brilliant script from Jeremy Slater, Carles Torrens offers up some fantastic work behind the camera in PET, surrounding himself with an adept crew and crafting this subversive tale with a precise sense of pacing and tone. Alongside Torrens is Timothy A. Burton, whose cinematography of the film helps in the misdirection, offering a familiar look for this urban horror story while taking advantage of the unique space and set design. Furthermore, PET features a solid score from Zacarias M. de la Riva which perfectly accentuates the tension, while Elena Ruiz’s editing work, Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s FX designs, and Oscar Grau’s sound mix are all worthy of high praise as well.

But with a film like PET, casting is key, and luckily, the performers on screen help elevate PET beyond its scripted potential. Dominic Monaghan is absolutely great as the creepy lead of the film, nailing the character’s askew moral superiority and desperation incredibly well. However, Ksenia Solo steals the show with a wicked, multi-faceted performance that is incredibly difficult to praise without digging too deeply into spoiler territory; just don’t be surprised if Solo becomes a major presence in the genre from here on out. And further kudos goes to Jennette McCurdy, whose spunky, minimalist performance feels appropriate, especially once her “best friend” character takes a surprising turn.

Overall, PET is not a horror offering to miss, especially if you’re a fan of love stories that trade in sap for splatter. Equal parts fun and freaky with strong performances and some worthwhile grue, Carles Torrens crafts a supremely unique and original horror story that even seasoned horror fans won’t see coming. Just go in with an open mind, and you’ll more likely than not fall prey to PET’s inherent cinematic charm, even if you’re left a bit queasy by the end of the ride.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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